This Article is From Nov 04, 2017

'They Harass Us': Bonded Labour - An Unfortunate Reality Near Bengaluru

Tamil Nadu and Karnataka lead in the number of people rescued from bonded labour.

Tamil Nadu and Karnataka lead in the number of people rescued from bonded labour


Just 30 km from the IT hub Bengaluru, Venkatesan and Jayamma worked as bonded labour for nearly 10 years, an unfortunate reality for over one crore Indians. The central government in 2016 spoke of rehabilitating 1.84 crore bonded labourers by 2030 - an acknowledgement of the scale of the problem.

Tamil Nadu and Karnataka lead in the number of people rescued from bonded labour - but this is also an indication of the seriousness of the issue in these states. In a recent raid, labourers from Tamil Nadu who had been working as bonded labourers in Karnataka were rescued.

"The work is very difficult - we don't get paid properly. We aren't able to do it. We get scolded if we can't do it. If we ask about payment they abuse and hit us," Venkatesan told NDTV.

"We aren't allowed to go home together...whether for a death or wedding we are not allowed to go together....Even to go to a shop - somebody is sent to watch us. At night they come drink and harass the women," he said.

His wife Jayamma added, "They sometimes take the girls and harass them. They pull them.... My back aches, my eyes ache, I can't get up. If we say anything they beat and punch us..."

The couple was among the last of a batch of workers to be rescued from a brick kiln near India's IT capital. Along with them, a younger labour, Chinnadurai was freed. He told NDTV, "We have worked for 10 years and they are not paying us properly. We have fear in their hearts - will they beat us?"

The workers, who are from close to Vellore in Tamil Nadu, were trapped with a commonly used method - a loan was given to them and they were made to work to pay it off. But it was a loan that never seemed to end.

Esther Daniel, Director, International Justice Mission told NDTV, "Like in this case you see some of the workers have taken advance of 10,000 Rs ten years ago, and they are still working. They are paid as less as you know 500 rupees a week and some of them are paid 250 rupees a week. They were not allowed to leave, they were not allowed to leave as a family. In the market places they were supervised."

The IJM says it has rescued around 15,000 such labourers in the last 15 years. This group of labourers were rescued after one of them escaped and made it home to near Vellore. And authorities in Karnataka stepped in to rescue them along with an NGO.

MK Jagadeesh, Assistant Commissioner of Bengaluru Urban, said, "Normally in the outskirts of Bangalore we find this kind of problems majorly in the brick industry...The system (of bonded labour) has been abolished in 1970 itself, but most of the people don't know what the system is, what is the right on the minimum wages....All these things are you know lack of awareness."

"Apart from that what is happening is that there is no conviction happening in bonded labor system. There is a provision for that -  but with more convictions happening and with publicity, then I think we can create that awareness in this society and these things can be avoided."

Chinnadurai is relieved his decade long nightmare is over.  "Bless those who got us this freedom," he said.

The accused has been arrested and charged with Human Trafficking. The freed labourers will now start to rebuild their lives with the help of government schemes. Ten years a slave - but these are the lucky ones. Thousands more remain trapped this way across the county.